US Navy warship Shiloh sails through Taiwan Strait on ‘routine transit’ after island’s election

18-Jan-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

A US Navy warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Thursday, Taiwan’s defence ministry and the US Navy confirmed, in the wake of the island’s presidential election last weekend.

Joe Keiley, a spokesman for the US 7th Fleet, on Friday said the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh conducted a “routine Taiwan Strait transit” in a demonstration of “the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific”.

“The US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows,” he said.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said in a statement that the US warship was on a general navigation mission when it sailed north, from the southwest of the island, through the strategic waterway separating Taiwan from mainland China.

It said Taiwan’s military had a “full grasp during the entire process of the neighbouring seas, the air and naval spaces, and other relevant developments, with no abnormalities during the period so all citizens may be at ease”.

The USS Shiloh’s passage came after President Tsai Ing-wen was re-elected in a landslide victory last Saturday, after campaigning on her administration’s “record high” relations with the United States and tougher stance against Beijing’s threats to the island.

Beijing claims self-governed Taiwan as part of its own territory, and has vowed to bring the island under its control, by force if necessary.

The US has increased the frequency of its Taiwan Strait transits in recent years despite Beijing’s protestations, with at least nine passages through the waterway last year. One of the most recent included the guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville sailing through the strait in November, in what the US Navy said was a demonstration of “the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific”.

Taipei has welcomed the US freedom of navigation patrols as a sign of Washington’s support for Taiwan, as its relations with Beijing have deteriorated since Tsai, from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, became president in 2016.

Beijing also sent its new aircraft carrier, the Shandong, through the Taiwan Strait in November and December, in moves seen as military muscle flexing ahead of the island’s presidential elections. It has also held large-scale “encirclement” exercises and bomber training near the island in recent years.

Beijing has said that Taiwan is “the most important and sensitive issue in China-US relations”, as ties between the major powers have been strained amid strategic rivalry over trade, technology, ideology, and competing interests in the region.


Category: Taiwan

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